Social media is everywhere around us. The world is finding its news, its information and its opinion from platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. More and more people are using social media as their main source of current affairs updates as social media will send the latest news in your preferred area directly to your phone or your computer. This is now how the world works in 2018. With number of Internet users in India expected to grow by at least 50 million yearly till 2020 and with India close to replace US as the second largest market with Internet penetration numbers inching towards 300-million-Internet-users mark the digital space is fast becoming the most sought after medium for advertising and promotions. So what does it mean for films? Is social media marketing now the key priority for producers of films and marketing agencies? How does social media marketing really help a film?
Firstly it's important to point out that social media marketing still is a small part of film promotional activities. TV interviews and promos, radio coverage, outdoor hoardings, etc and promotional events are all very much part of the way films are promoted but social media is like an intermediary for all these. It's a complementary medium that allows all these marketing activities, to reach out to an even larger segment of the audience and with little extra cost and a much higher frequency. For instance, if a film has an event at a college, generally only the students at the college would be able to see it in person. However, via social media and smart phones, each one of those students plus clever marketing agencies can share, tweet, forward, retweet, snap, insta and all other kinds of jargon, those events to literally millions of interested consumers and they would appear on their feeds, timelines, updates, etc for hours and even days. Add to this the traditional online media channels, portals, blogs, etc that would also cover and update, you can see that one event, well covered and shared, can become a wave of information and updates.
This is the key to how social media helps a film. Awareness. Still being relatively cheap and with the advent of virality on the platforms, a story or piece of well placed promotion, can suddenly be seen by hundreds of interested (or disinterested) consumers at the click of a button and the frequency of the information is something that can continue for hours or even days. If you missed something, it can be resent to you again and again until you are willing to interact with it and/or dismiss it. You may or may not be interested, but you cannot ignore it. The pervasiveness of social media certainly in the urban audiences means that its everywhere and is almost omnipotent, following us wherever we go unless we purposely do something to turn off the notifications. Social media platforms like Youtube, Facebook and Twitter have become the first release point for any films trailer, teaser, song or other promotional material. The amount of earned media that can be gained with relatively smaller amount of paid media is unlike any of the traditional platforms and therefore the reach and carry of the asset can be many times the paid coverage. This is hugely advantageous for films who generally have limited budgets and tend to spend most of their promotion monies on the television platforms which means digital spends are still proportionately smaller. Perhaps this means that social platforms are more effective than TV but even though the earned media is there and the obvious reach is there, digital and social is not a sticky platform and therefore TV continues to be a very important part of promotion.
Aside from this awareness, can social media really create interest in the film from a messaging point of view? The 'Padman' Challenge was something that the movie of the same name pushed very hard over the last 10 days prior to release, getting endorsements of the social message from Bollywood stars and other celebrities. It was an important initiative from a social point of view but whether it would convince someone to watch the film, who previously didn't have the propensity to consume it, I am not sure. Most of us generally make up our minds to watch a film after seeing the trailer or reading the first review. All other assets are validation or frequency builders of those elements. Hence, no doubt things like the Padman Challenge are certainly viral social content and may help promote the social message of a film, but I think the jury is still out as to whether it actually helps box office. So social media is a vitally important component of movie marketing and as devices and the internet becomes more and more part and parcel of our lives, this importance will only grow.
However, I think the effectiveness of the platform needs to still be quantified from a content point of view rather than just from a distribution pipeline point of view, over which, there is no doubt of its unparalleled reach.